Former Republic writer talks about journey with Alzheimer’s

Embedded journalism typically refers to news reporters attached to military units engaged in war.

Greg O'Brien

Greg O’Brien

In the case of Greg O’Brien, the term applies to the award-winning journalist’s personal battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. O’Brien is embedded in his own mind, chronicling his journey with hope, faith and humor in his new book On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s.

O’Brien will speak and sign books from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 20 at Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, 555 N. Central Ave. Sponsored by Hospice of the Valley, the “Voices of Alzheimer’s” event also includes the agency’s dementia program director Maribeth Gallagher – a doctor of nursing practice and national expert on the disease, the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.

O’Brien was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2009, at the age of 59.

His mother and grandfather also had the disease; they share a common gene. O’Brien decided to face down the demon and write about it, chronicling moments like gargling with rubbing alcohol instead of mouthwash, introducing himself to a friend he’d known for decades, and getting lost for hours on a drive then coasting into his driveway at home with the lights off to escape detection.

With more than 35 years’ experience as a writer, editor, investigative reporter and publisher – including The Arizona Republic – O’Brien tells his story with grace and insight. It is a story about living with Alzheimer’s, not dying from it. O’Brien lives with his family in Cape Cod, where he served as editor of the local newspaper.

There is no charge for the event, which is open to the public. A short documentary film clip about O’Brien and his family produced by “Hoop Dreams” director Steve James will be shown. Valley businessman Ray Artigue, a Cronkite board member, will moderate the event. A question-and-answer session also will be held followed by light refreshments.

To RSVP, contact 602-636-5394 or

‘From Journalist to Author: Turning Your Beat into a Book’ set for Oct. 7

Many Arizona journalists are facing reduced hours, unpaid “furcations” and the possibility of even more layoffs at their place of business. It’s not bad time to start thinking of ways to supplement your income. Why not take some of those hundreds of hours spent on investigating notable issues and incidents (which got you only 20 column inches total) and turn it into a non-fiction bestseller? We present three former Virg Hill Journalists of the Year who have done just that, with great success. Here how they were inspired, how they got started and what they learned from the process.

Panelists include:

Jana Boomersbach, an acclaimed and respected journalist whose work has encompassed every facet of the profession: she’s been a reporter and editor for both weekly and daily newspapers; she’s written a book and is a major contributor to an anthology; she’s written columns and investigative stories for magazines; she’s appeared on television with both political commentaries and investigative stories. Boomersbach has written two non-fiction books based on her past investigative reports: “The Trunk Murderess: Winne Ruth Judd,” which won Arizona’s Don Bolles Award for Investigative Reporting and was recognized as one of the nation’s five top non-fiction books in 1992, when it was nominated for the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award; and “Bones in the Desert: The True Story of a Mother’s Murder and a Daughter’s Search.” It examines the 2004 murder and secret desert burial of Loretta Bowersock, mother of Arizona’s “domestic diva,” Terri Bowersock of Terri’s Design & Consign. The book discovers the horrible secrets that led to this “classic case of elder abuse” and examines the impact of this tragedy on all it touched.

Shanna Hogan, author of “Dancing with Death: The True Story of a Glamorous Showgirl, Her Wealthy Husband and a Horrifying Murder.” In 2004, former stripper-turned-suburban-housewife Marjorie Orbin filed a missing person’s report on her husband. She claimed that Jay, a successful art dealer, had left town on business after celebrating their son’s birthday more than a month before. And then, a shocking discovery: Jay’s headless, limbless torso was discovered on the outskirts of the Phoenix desert—and all evidence pointed to Marjorie as the killer. An Arizona State University journalism graduate, Hogan has written for several Arizona-based publications. She has received numerous writing awards, including first place honors for crime reporting, feature writing and investigative journalism.

Terry Greene Sterling, author of “Illegal: Life And Death In Arizona’s Immigration War Zone.” This book sheds light on the invisible immigrants who persevere despite kidnappings and drug wars, an ongoing recession, and laws barring them from working, learning, and driving. Sterling has been a journalist for over 25 years, and has been honored with 49 national and regional journalism awards. She was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times for 14 years, and then branched out on her own. She is currently a contributor for The Daily Beast, and Writer-in-Residence at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post,,, The Nieman Narrative Digest, PHOENIX Magazine, The Arizona Republic, Arizona Highways, High Country News, and Preservation Magazine.

The program takes place 6-8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7 in the Rio Salado room at Monti’s La Casa Vieja, 100 S. Mill Ave. in Tempe. Cost is $5 for SPJ members and students with ID, and $10 for non-members and guests. There will be complimentary refreshments and a cash bar. RSVP requested by Oct. 5 at:

To download the program flier, click here. For more information, call Teri Carnicelli at 602-410-1267.